Archive for Sunday, September 16, 2001

Cheney says U.S. will target bin Laden, warns Afghanistan it may be target

September 16, 2001


— Vice President Dick Cheney pledged Sunday that the United States would track down fugitive terrorist Osama bin Laden and warned that nations that sheltered him face "the full wrath of the United States." He identified Afghanistan as a likely target.

"What we are going to do is aggressively go after Mr. bin Laden, obviously, and all his associates. And even if it takes a long time, I'm convinced eventually we'll prevail," Cheney said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" from the presidential retreat at Camp David.

Cheney and several other top administration leaders spent the night with President Bush at the mountaintop retreat in rural Maryland after holding a meeting that was a virtual council of war.

A delegation of senior Pakistani officials will go to neighboring Afghanistan on Monday to demand that the ruling Taliban militia hand over bin Laden to the United States, a top Pakistani official said in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital.

The delegation will issue an ultimatum: either deliver bin Laden or risk a massive retaliatory assault, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said bin Laden is only part of the problem, and that the campaign of terror is "much bigger than one person."

"It's a matter of his network," Rumsfeld said on "Fox News Sunday." "If he were not there, there'd be 15 or 20 or 30 other people who would step in. ... Obviously, he's a prime suspect, but we have to be realistic."

Even as Bush prepared the nation for war, he said Americans should go about their business this week. But he said life in the nation would be different even as it nudges closer to normal.

A day after Bush called bin Laden a prime suspect in last week's terror attacks in New York and Washington, Cheney presented what amounted to the administration's most specific indictment yet of both the Saudi exile and Afghanistan.

Cheney said the United States would retaliate "if you've got a nation out there now that has provided a base, training facilities, a sanctuary, assets." Afghanistan fits that description, he suggested.

"They have to understand, and others like them around the world have to understand, that if you provided sanctuary to terrorists, you face the full wrath of the United States of America," Cheney said.

"I have no doubt" that bin Laden's organization was involved in the attacks, Cheney said.

He said there was no way to know for sure whether bin Laden was still in Afghanistan, and that the a threat could remain.

"The possibility truly exists that there could be additional terrorists out there," he added.

Cheney said there was no evidence to link Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to the attacks by suicide hijackers on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that left thousands dead.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said Sunday the administration would ask Congress this week for increased authority to use wiretaps to seek out and prosecute suspected terrorists.

"It will be a comprehensive look at our laws in the context of terrorism _ not only looking at prosecuting people for terrorist acts, but how we can prevent terrorism in this country," Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said.

Law enforcement officials advanced in their attempt to track down associates of the terrorists. With one man already in custody, authorities issued another warrant and arrested a second man in New York as a possible material witness, Tucker said Sunday. Twenty-five people were detained for possible immigration violations.

Professional baseball games were to resume Monday and the stock markets were to reopen. Bush hopes "the measures we take will allow the American economy to continue on."

Despite the president's attempt to reassure the markets, there was immediate economic fallout from the attacks. A drastic drop in air travel and bookings caused Continental Airlines to cut its flight schedule by 20 percent and furlough 12,000 employees _ more than one-fifth of its payroll.

For America's armed forces, including reservists being called to duty, the president had a different message Saturday: "Get ready. The United States will do what it takes to win this war."

Diplomatically, the United States gained support around the world and Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Pakistani government agreed to specific requests sought by the United States. Powell would not provide details.

By Saturday night, 159 bodies were recovered from World Trade Center ruins, with 92 identified; the number of missing stood at 4,972. The Pentagon death toll is at 188.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.